The color-sharing bonus: Roles of perceptual organization and attentive processes in visual working memory

Candice Morey, Yongqi Cong, Yixia Zheng, Mindi Price, Richard D. Morey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Color repetitions in a visual scene boost memory for its elements, a phenomenon known as the color-sharing effect. This may occur because improved perceptual organization reduces information load or because the repetitions capture attention.
The implications of these explanations differ drastically for both the theoretical meaning of this effect and its potential value for applications in design of visual materials. If repetitions capture attention to the exclusion of other details, then
use of repetition in visual displays should be confined to emphasized details, but if repetitions reduce the load of the display, designers can assume that the nonrepeated information is also more likely to be attended and remembered. We manipulated the availability of general attention during a visual memory task by comparing groups of participants engaged in meaningless speech or attention-demanding continuous arithmetic. We also tracked eye movements as an implicit indicator of selective attention. Estimated memory capacity was always higher when color duplicates were tested, and under full attention conditions this bonus spilled over to the unique colors too. Analyses of gazes showed that with full attention, participants tended to glance earlier at duplicate colors during stimulus presentation but looked more at unique
colors during the retention interval. This pattern of results suggests that the color-sharing bonus reflects efficient perceptual organization of the display based on the presence of repetitions, and possibly strategic attention allocation when attention
is available.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18-29
JournalArchives of Scientific Psychology
Issue number1
Early online date13 Apr 2015
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2015


  • Visual memory
  • Working memory
  • Eye movements
  • Visual change detection
  • Short-term memory


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